Common Mission Builds Lasting Relationship


The nearly 30-year relationship between The University of Scranton’s Panuska College of Professional Studies’ Health Administration Program and St. Elizabeth University of Health and Social Work and Trnava University, Slovak Republic, has resulted in numerous faculty and student exchanges that have benefited both the education of health care providers and the care of patients across the globe.From left, University of Scranton President Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., met with Most Reverend Viliam Judak, Bishop of the Diocese of Nitra, Slovak Republic, and Monsignor Martin Stofko, Diocese of Nitra, Slovak Republic, during a recent visit to Scranton.

 

Castles built in stone will surely last longer than those made of sand. The same can be true of relationships. Those built on a solid foundation, such as a shared mission, would surely be best suited to stand the test of time.

For nearly 30 years, The University of Scranton has enjoyed just such a relationship with St. Elizabeth University of Health and Social Work, a Catholic college in Bratislava, Slovak Republic, and Trnava University, Trnava, Slovak Republic.

A recent visit to Scranton by Most Reverend Viliam Judak, Bishop of the Diocese of Nitra, Slovak Republic, and Monsignor Martin Stofko, Diocese of Nitra, Slovak Republic, highlights the common foundation and strong bonds shared by Scranton and St. Elizabeth University and Catholic church in the former communist state.

“St. Elizabeth University was created as a private Catholic university so that they could serve the poor both in Slovakia and also communities external to Slovakia,” said Daniel J. West Jr., Ph.D., professor and chair of Scranton’s Department of Health Administration and Human Resources.

St. Elizabeth University offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral level education in numerous health related fields and has more than 40 science-pedagogical facilities in more than 20 countries. The partnership between the Panuska College of Professional Studies’ Health Administration Program and the Catholic institution has brought numerous faculty and student exchanges that have benefited both the education of health care providers and the care of patients across the globe.

In addition to its educational mission, St. Elizabeth University actively serves the sick and poor irrespective of the race, nationality and religious orientation, in the Slovak Republic, as well as through its health, humanitarian, social, charitable and missionary facilities in Ukraine, Cambodia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan, Nairobi, Haiti and a dozen other countries.

Scranton – with a commitment to provide a transformational educational experience to our students that is engaged, integrated and global – has partnered with St. Elizabeth’s to provide experiences abroad for our Master in Health Administration (MHA) students.

“When I first started at Scranton a few decades ago, less than 1 percent of our students traveled abroad,” said Dr. West. “Now about 25 percent of students do. We need to have the relationships to allow this to happen with partners we trust. It’s the human element that is so important.”

Dr. West said the relationship with St. Elizabeth has developed “block by block” over time, recalling that the University though its numerous efforts in Haiti, introduced St. Elizabeth University to the many needs of the poor of the that nation. Subsequently, St. Elizabeth’s has started two health care projects in Haiti, one in the north and one in the south.

“I went to Haiti to help with the children,” said Monsignor Stofko. “I also went to Kenya and Uganda. This is the way we continued to work with the University and work with the students.”

Dr. West said the University has worked “hand-in-hand” with St. Elizabeth’s and the Church in Slovakia. This relationship extends to publishing, research and international presentations. Faculty from Slovakia contributed to four chapters of Dr. West’s most recent book “The Global Healthcare Manager: Competencies, Concepts and Skills.”

But, Dr. West said it is the students that ultimately benefit the most from the relationship.

“Each time our MHA students visit St. Elizabeth’s in Bratislava, we also visit some area around the city. One area we always visit is Nitra and when we visit, the Bishop invites us to his table, which is really in a very large castle. He allows us to tour a museum that not everyone has the chance to see,” said Dr. West.

This year, two groups of MHA students will travel to St. Elizabeth’s in the spring semester.

Students will see first-hand the lasting strength of castles built of stone – and of partnerships formed on a solid foundation.


Learn more about the MHA program at The University of Scranton.

Opportunities Abroad Boost DPT Education


Matthew Aiken (MA) ’17, DPT expected 2020, and Erin Ciarrocca (EC) ’18, DPT expected 2021, reflect on their experiences doing service in Guatemala during intersession.

Where are you going on your service trip/how long?

MA: Our service trip took place in Guatemala over the course of 10 days. Specifically, we stayed in Zacapa and Antigua.

In a paragraph or two, describe your experience and what kind of service you did.

MA: Our service trip was based out of Hearts in Motion (HIM) an organization that provides various medical services to individuals throughout Guatemala. This trip specifically focused on physical therapy. Our group consisted of three groups of physical therapy students from the following Universities: Marquette University, William Carey and The University of Scranton.

Each day we traveled to neighboring towns and provide physical therapy in either a pre-existing clinic or in a “pop-up” clinic. While at the clinics we would treat various types of patients ranging from poor posture causing pain to patients with much more severe and involved neurological issues. Each day we would attempt to work in different groups of students from different schools in order to grow and learn from one another.

What inspired you to go on a service trip?

MA: I was inspired to go on this service trip by various people. Some of my friends have attended previous trips similar to this one and have given it remarkable reviews. Furthermore, I knew for a while that I wanted to take part in some type of service trip, this trip specifically resonated with me because it was a chance to both help other people while continuing to grow as a person and as a student in the physical therapy society.

What is your biggest takeaway from this experience?

MA: My biggest take away from the service trip would be the hospitality and the thankfulness each and every patient expressed. No matter how small of an issue we treated, every patient was grateful. This hit close to home for me because I feel that in our society we can sometimes get so caught up in our everyday lives and ignore what is directly around us. In addition, this trip has shown me how complacent we can become in our everyday lives if we don’t live to help others.

EC: I was most awestruck by the gratitude each patient demonstrated for the care we provided. Often patients would hug and kiss us at the end of their treatment, offering a “Dios te bendiga,” which translates to “God bless you” on their way out of the clinic. As a first-year student, I initially questioned my ability to truly help these patients, but I found that their willingness to listen and learn along with a pure determination to better their own lives was so much stronger than my insecurity. They welcomed my knowledge with open arms and embraced any treatments we offered without skepticism. This type of open-mindedness and faith in the goodness of others was unlike any I had seen before and it was something I would like to model in my future career as a physical therapist.


5. What advice would you give to college students interested in participating in a service trip?

MA: Do it! If there is an opportunity for you to go on a service trip, especially if the service is something you are passionate about, then I highly recommend taking the leap of faith and going for it. If you have concerns about the trip reach out to individuals who have previously attended or a moderator of the trip. We are lucky enough that our school runs numerous service trips that can cater to all types of needs. These opportunities are not always present after we graduate. Therefore, I strongly encourage, even if just a small part of you wants to take part in a service trip, go for it.

EC: My advice is simple — go for it! I decided to go on this trip with only a few days’ notice, no idea who else was going, and relatively low confidence in my ability to treat Spanish-speaking patients, but within just a couple hours of working in the clinic found that the opportunity was just what I needed to grow as a student. I didn’t plan on utilizing my Spanish much, but I was immediately thrown into translating so my comfortability speaking with patients increased each day. I was able to learn from my peers and the professors, which gave me a whole set of new tools to take back for classes this spring. More importantly, this service trip gave me a chance to share the blessings I’ve been given as a University of Scranton student with people who haven’t been afforded the same opportunities. I was able to carry out my mission as a physical therapist, but also as a Christian, in serving and loving God’s children.

6. Do you think you’ll continue to serve in some way after you graduate?

MA: Yes. I am already thinking about ways to continue serving both here in the United States and abroad. Since I was young, I have felt a need to help others, hence a degree in physical therapy. Over the past six years at Scranton, this calling has only grown stronger. The Jesuit ideal of men and women for others has become not just a saying, but, rather, a lifestyle that I look forward to continuing.

View more about Erin Ciarrocca’s trip to Guatemala here!

Check out a faculty perspective here!

Learn more about the DPT program here.